It’s been said before, it’ll be said again, and we’ll say it once more here: The Marvel Cinematic Universe has single-handedly changed how blockbuster film making works in 21st century Hollywood. By embracing its source material rather than trying to circumvent it or treating it as a burden, the MCU has captured the essence of comic books and exposed all of its positive aspects to the mainstream, integrating itself so perfectly into the cinematic landscape that pop culture and nerd culture have pretty much become synonymous at this point. A big part of its success is its initial decision not to directly appeal to existing comic fans but to make a universally enjoyable film dotted with little Easter eggs of deeper lore for the fans.
The franchise has become famous for these Easter eggs and subtle references to the source material, especially the few examples of it that eventually turn into actual canon. It’s gotten to the point where fans watch for Easter eggs specifically to try and predict what Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige’s next move will be for the overall narrative of the inter-connected film universe. However, more often than not, these references don’t have a meaningful payoff even years later, suggesting that Marvel doesn’t have a plan to use them at all. Here are 15 MCU Easter eggs that never went anywhere and 10 that became relevant.
25 Went Somewhere: Nick Fury Knows About Wakanda
The closing scene of ‘Iron Man 2’ culminated in Nick Fury kinda-sorta approving Tony Stark for the Avengers Initiative. In it, there’s a noticeable map behind them that highlights several important locations in Marvel lore. Greenland (where Captain America was frozen,) Sokovia (where the Maximoff Twins were born,) and the Midwest (Hulk’s hiding place) are all circled. One of the most intriguing locations, however, was in Africa where the then-unmentioned Wakanda was circled. This of course led up to ‘Black Panther’ several years later.
24 Went Nowhere: Nick Fury Knows About Atlantis
The famous map at the end of ‘Iron Man 2’ indicated that Nick Fury and S.H.I.E.L.D. were aware of and were monitoring several prominent Marvel figures. But there was one specific location on the map that had fans particularly excited. This was the circle that highlighted a section of the mid-Atlantic. Any comic fan worth their salt knew that this was hinting at the arrival of Namor the Sub-Mariner, king of the ocean kingdom of Atlantis. Despite being hinted at almost a decade ago, Namor hasn’t shown up and Atlantis has never even been referenced since.
23 Went Nowhere: Beta Ray Bill, Bi-Beast, And Ares Fought On Sakaar
One of the best parts of ‘Thor Ragnarok’ was its unorthodox adaptation of the Planet Hulk storyline. The MCU’s version of the story saw Thor finding Hulk on the alien junkworld of Sakaar, where he had become a revered gladiator. Hulk was shown living in a tower covered with the carved images of former champions. Among the faces were the famous faces of Marvel characters Beta Ray Bill, Bi-Beast, and Ares. Despite being major characters in the comics with deep and intriguing lore behind them, this is the only reference to them in the MCU to date.
22 Went Somewhere: Spider-Man’s Principal Was A Howling Commando
Though they only got a passing introduction in ‘Captain America: The First Avenger,’ the Howling Commandos unit are a huge part of Cap’s and S.H.I.E.L.D.’s history. So much so that they are still brought up through their descendants. Among the most prominent is Spider-Man’s principal in ‘Homecoming,’ Principal Morita. A picture and military pins in Morita’s office reveals that he’s the grandson of Howling Commando Jim Morita. To emphasize their relationship, both of them are played by the same actor, Kenneth Choi.
21 Went Nowhere: The Infinity Gauntlet In Odin’s Vault
All the way back in Phase One, fans were tickled pink by the appearance of the legendary infinity gauntlet, complete with all six infinity stones, safely on display in the background of Odin’s vault of dangerous weapons in ‘Thor.’ Obviously, this would eventually cause something of a plot hole as the infinity gauntlet would become a major plot point in later films with absolutely no connection to Odin or Asgard. ‘Thor Ragnarok’ would later hang a lampshade on this issue by having Hela declare the gauntlet in Odin’s vault a fake.
20 Went Nowhere: Obadiah Stane Teases The Chessmen
Despite being killed in the very first Iron Man movie, Obadiah Stane is one of his most dangerous enemies in the comics. A particular scene in the film showed Stane in his own home with an unfinished game of chess on the table in front of him. This was a veiled reference to the Chessmen, a team off chess-themed assassins that Stane assembled to ruin Stark’s legacy. While many fans picked up on this little Easter egg, Stane’s demise at the end of the film confirmed that it was nothing more than a tease.
19 Went Somewhere: Scott Sees The Wasp In the Quantum Realm
While watching the climactic scene in ‘Ant-Man’ where Scott falls into the endless quantum realm, many picked up on the silhouette of a winged figure that looked an awful lot like Hope Van Dyne’s mother and Hank Pym’s wife, Janet a.k.a. the Wasp. After Hank had explained that she too was lost in the quantum realm, fans predicted this was leading to them finding a way to bring her back in the sequel. Lo and behold, they were exactly right. Though not many could have foreseen she would possess Scott’s body to reminisce with her family.
18 Went Nowhere: Doc Sampson In ‘Incredible Hulk’
While often forgotten, ‘The Incredible Hulk’ is still technically part of the MCU cannon, meaning that, among other things, Liv Tyler’s Betsy Ross is still out there somewhere. Her brief new squeeze in the film, played by Ty Burrell, is only called Leonard, but anyone with a passing knowledge of the Hulk’s expanded supporting cast knows this is undoubtedly supposed to be Dr. Leonard Sampson, a.k.a. the super-strong Doc Sampson, even if he lacks his signature flowing green locks. Despite being an established character, he hasn’t shown his face since.
17 Went Nowhere: Rick Jones’ S.H.I.E.L.D. File
Strangely enough, the Hulk never really got an origin story in the MCU. The closest he ever got was the opening sequence of ‘The Incredible Hulk,’ which rushed through his backstory in the assumption that everyone already knew it. Flashing through scenes from his origin are images of classified files from the likes of Nick Fury, General Ross, and fan-favorite character and Hulk sidekick Rick Jones. Despite the cool namedrop confirming that he does exist in the MCU, Jones himself has never made an appearance.
16 Went Somewhere: Hydra Targets Dr. Strange Before He’s Dr. Strange
‘Captain America: The Winter Soldier’ did more to up-heave the fabric of the MCU than any other movie in the franchise. While interrogating S.H.I.E.L.D. agent-turned Hydra sleeper Jasper Sitwell, Cap, Widow, and Falcon force him to reveal that Hydra is going to use the three new, highly-advanced Helicarriers to assassinate potentially disruptive individuals. Among the named targets is one Steven Strange, a full two years before he would get his own movie and make the transition into the sorcerer supreme Dr. Strange.
15 Went Nowhere: Tony Suggest He Be Made Secretary Of State
One of the best scenes of ‘Iron Man 2’ was the spectacular congressional hearing where Tony Stark got to bounce his sass and superiority off of Justin Hammer and Senator Stern. During proceedings, he jokingly says that he’d accept the position of Secretary of Defense if it were offered to him. In the comics, this is less of a joke and Tony is actually made a member of the cabinet for a time. Some fans were intrigued at the idea of seeing Robert Downey Jr. as an actual political figure in the MCU, but it has not come to pass.
14 Went Nowhere: The Fin Fang Foom Poster In ‘Iron Man’
One of the first real Easter eggs in the MCU was a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it reference to the legendary dragon Fin Fang Foom, a classic villain from Marvel comics, in the background of ‘Iron Man.’ As Tony flies through the streets of LA, he very briefly soars past a giant movie poster featuring the monster. While this could indicate that Fin Fang Foom is just a movie character a-la Godzilla in the MCU, no further reference to the famous creature has been seen since.
13 Went Somewhere: The Mural Of The World Tree
The first ‘Thor’ movie demonstrated that the ancient Norse gods hadn’t just disappeared along with their mythology, they’d been realm being who just stopped visiting Earth after a small town in Norway was the site of an epic war between them and the frost giants. Later, in the first ‘Captain America’ film, the same town in Norway is the target of a Hydra raid led by the Red Skull himself. In the town, he finds a mural of Yggdrasil, the world tree of Nordic lore, behind which Odin has hidden the Tesseract.
12 Went Nowhere: Daniel Drumm Perishes In ‘Dr. Strange’
Though he was never given a name in the film, the master of the New York sanctum in ‘Dr. Strange’ is surprisingly memorable in his brief scene before his sudden demise at the hands of Kaecilius. Turns out, he should have been because he’s actually the Marvel character Daniel Drumm. It’s also fitting he died as Daniel is best known as being a ghost who frequently helps his sibling, Brother Voodoo. Unfortunately, Voodoo and Drumm (great name for a sitcom) have not been mentioned or seen afterwards.
11 Went Nowhere: Odin Has His Ravens Spy On Thor And Loki
Though it was nigh impossible to notice, Odin laid a nice little Easter egg in ‘The Avengers.’ He had to use arcane forces to send Thor to Earth without the Bifrost, but wanted to make sure he had eyes on the ground. In the scene where Thor first confronts Loki after taking him from Cap and Tony, a pair of ravens can be seen perched on the cliff above them. These are actually Huginn and Muninn, Odin’s pets who carry his thoughts and memories. While he clearly had an investment in proceedings, he never brings up that he spied on Thor.
10 Went Somewhere: Tony References LMDs, They Turn Up On ‘Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.’
Fans squealed in glee when Tony name-dropped Life Model Decoys in ‘The Avengers’ in a vain attempt to get out of meeting with Agent Coulson. The robots that can the shape of anyone are a staple in the comics. It took a few years after the fact, but LMDs did eventually get to turn up in the MCU in ‘Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’ There, they were used to infiltrate the crippled organization by the Watchdogs hate group and eventually pumped out Aida, one of the series’ best villains.
9 Went Nowhere: Tony Has A Jocasta AI
While it wasn’t the best film in the MCU library, ‘Age of Ultron’ did its part in up-heaving the status quo, most notably by evolving Jarvis, Tony’s AI assistant, into Vision. This left Tony without a voice in his ear, so before the final fight against Ultron he goes out of his way to pick a new AI to help pilot his armor from a box of them he just has lying around apparently. One of the AIs is labeled “Jocasta,” who fans will remember from the comics as Ultron’s bride. She hasn’t made an appearance since this Easter egg.
8 Went Nowhere: The Human Torch Costume At Stark Expo
The first Stark Expo in ‘Captain America: The First Avenger’ was abound with Easter eggs that referenced other MCU elements as well as classic comic iconography. The most prominent was easily the figure in a tube wearing a red uniform. This was the original Human Torch, the very first Marvel Character. While Marvel still owns the film rights to this version of Human Torch, it’s likely they didn’t go all-in with the character due to the more famous version being owned by Fox at the time.
7 Went Somewhere: Terrence Howard Teases War Machine
When ‘Iron Man’ kicked off the MCU, it was not guaranteed to get a sequel, let alone jump-start a franchise. Nevertheless, it proved to be ambitious about its future, as evidenced by Rhodey (then played by Terrence Howard) when he sees an unmanned, unlocked, and unpainted Iron Man suit and promises “Next time, baby.” True to form, the MCU fulfilled this promise in the sequel, when Rhodes (Don Cheadle this time) stole the suit to become his comic superhero persona, the War Machine.
6 Went Nowhere: The Collector Had Adam Warlock’s Cocoon
‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ wasn’t just a bolt out of the blue and a shot in the arm for the MCU, it was also a love letter to comic fans that dropped dozens of clever easter eggs for eagle-eyed viewers. One of the most fan-boyish came in the Collector’s workshop, itself basically a museum of Marvel lore. While being given the backstory of the infinity stones, Gamora and Star-Lord stand in front of what is clearly Adam Warlock’s cocoon from the comics. However, not only did Warlock not come up, but it turns out it wasn’t even his cocoon.
5 Went Nowhere: Cosmo The Russian Space Dog
The Collector’s treasure trove on Knowhere had many little tidbits for comic fans, but one of the most prominent was easily the introduction of Cosmo, the Russian Space Dog, who gets to share a moment of animosity with Rocket. In the comics, Cosmo is actually a valuable asset to the Guardians of the Galaxy and can even communicate telepathically. In the MCU, he only got to growl at a cybernetic raccoon and lick the Collector as he mourned the loss of his collection.
4 Went Somewhere: Arnim Zola Introduced Through A Lens
Arnim Zola has always been a secondary villain, but has nevertheless been prominent in Marvel lore. To preserve his life beyond natural means, he uploaded his mind into a computerized body where he projects his face through a screen. In ‘Captain America: The First Avenger,’ he is introduced through a massive lens, suggesting he will mimic his comic version before he is revealed to still be in his mortal body. It was only in ‘Winter Soldier’ where this tease was fulfilled.
3 Went Nowhere: Samuel Stern Becomes The Leader
This one has become something of a running joke in the MCU with fans making hilarious predictions as to just where Samuel Stern is hiding. In a throwaway scene in ‘The Incredible Hulk,’ Stern is exposed to Banners’ gamma-irradiated blood and his head begins to mutate, indicating his transformation into the comic book villain The Leader. However, he has straight up disappeared from the MCU, having not been mentioned, referenced, or seen since long before the Avengers formed. All the way back when Ed Norton was still Bruce Banner.
2 Went Somewhere: A Neck Tattoo In ‘Ant-Man’ Proves A Group Is Still Active
The Ten Rings cult has been featured in the MCU from the beginning, but always through alternate channels. They were the group that took Tony Stark in ‘Iron Man,’ but were really just mercenaries hired by Obadiah Stane. They were supposed to be the villains in ‘Iron Man 3,’ but were just being used as a front. However, the one-shot ‘All Hail The King’ confirmed that the real Ten Rings and Mandarin were out there somewhere. This was further enforced in ‘Ant-Man’ by a villainous representative of the organization with a Ten Rings neck tattoo.
1 Went Somewhere: Bucky Uses Cap’s Shield Before Becoming Winter Soldier
While it was a pretty good movie overall, the real purpose of ‘Captain America: The First Avenger’ was to set up future plot points in the MCU. One of the most glaringly obvious was during the epic fight on the train. When Cap is temporarily disarmed, Bucky takes up his shield to continue the fight. This not only predicted his inevitable transition into the Winter Soldier, but was also a cool contrast with his iconic catching-the-shield moment in the immediate sequel.